There is no doubt that the Middle East is one of the world’s key strategic business footholds but for small and medium-sized enterprises, expansion into the overseas market could be an unrealistic dream.
But the Ajman Free Zone, one of the United Arab Emirates’ smallest units of its kind, may be a valid and down-to-earth alternative for SMEs, especially technology-focused Korean companies.
“We sought to find our own competitiveness and differentiate ourselves from other economic zones within the UAE, which are obviously larger and economically more influential than us,” Mahmood Al Hashemi, general manager of the AFZ Authority, told The Korea Herald.
Mahmood Al Hashemi, general manager of the Ajman Free Zone Authority, in the United Arab Emirates
“Our theme is thus to focus on SMEs, which make up some 80 percent of the foreign companies in Ajman.”
Al Hashemi came to Korea this week to hold an investment briefing and to attend one-on-one consultation sessions with individual companies.
“Because we have our eye on small, technology-based industries, our idea is to offer them a comprehensive smart business package, including offices, licenses, visas, and more,” he said.
The geographical location of Ajman, too, may be a point of attraction for those who wish to establish a trading hub in the Middle East.
“The very term ‘Middle East’ implies the region’s location, between Europe, Africa and Asia,” the AFZA official said.
Being in the heart of the Middle East and in close proximity to Dubai, Ajman is an ideal base point for companies which hope to expand out into the world, he added.
The AFZA was established in 1996 as an autonomous free zone entity to add momentum to industrial activity, which had quadrupled in size in the preceding years.
As a means to attract foreign investors and potential business champions, the free zone offers a series of benefits, such as an extremely low-cost and long-term lease of real estate and a monthly installment payment system.
“This unique payment system, which allows the tenant companies to pay their rent and other fees in smaller units on a monthly basis, is gaining popularity among SME people and young investors around the world,” Al Hashemi said.
The emirate will not, however, just settle with small-sized companies but expand its business domain further, he added.
“For the next year or so, we will continue to promote the entry of SMEs but we also hold a long-term vision to reach out to larger business units in the future,” he said.
The AFZA is currently building facilities such as warehouses and large offices, considering that bigger companies would need sufficient land and autonomy.
“Korean companies, over the past decades, have proven themselves to be fast-working, efficient, objective-driven, as well as highly innovative in terms of technology,” the official said.
Also, they are strong in trading, services and nano technology ― some of the top priority business sectors for the emirate, he added.
“Our key purpose of the visit this time is to grasp the detailed needs of Korean SMEs so that we may build a solid package for them.”
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)